redOrbit Review Of The Celluon Magic Cube
January 9, 2013

CES 2013: Celluon Magic Cube Laser Keyboard Misses The Mark

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Sometimes it seems as if technology only exists to remove minor and not so minor inconveniences from our everyday lives.

Where once we dialed with a rotary dial, now we tap a screen.

Where once we had to make sure to be home to watch our favorite shows, now we can record them with our DVRs.

Where once we had to actually press the keys to generate letters and numbers on a screen, one company is working to turn almost any flat surface into a virtual keyboard.

It´s almost easy to pass over Celluon´s booth at the International Consumer Electronics Show this week. It´s not ornately decorated; there aren´t any “booth babes” or DJ´ing hipsters. Yet, the demo area is enough to bring you in. There, perched on top of plain white tables are a series of devices– iPad, iPhone, and a Microsoft Surface– and a small black or white box. Displayed in front of the box is exactly what someone from the 80s would imagine a laser-projected keyboard to look like: Red all over and fairly low resolution.

Celluon makes a few such laser-projected keyboards, including a stand-alone unit (the Magic Cube) and an integrated iPhone 4/4s case, the Prodigy.

For a product and a technology which hasn´t really earned itself any traction, the concept of Celluon´s technology is simple: It projects a laser image of a keyboard on a surface and you tap away.

There had been many who had stopped by the Celluon booth to give this projection keyboard a try, and each screen showed the results of their trying to type the perfect sentence.

Many began with what seemed to be a simple “Hello, my name is“¦” but ended in several missed and/or repeated letters.

Finally, each typed sample ended up the same way, looking like the visitors had just gotten upset and given up, typing something like, “slkhnaslviblsdf”

In my experience, typing on the Magic Cube is more of a great thought than a great experience. I missed several letters and misspelled many words. You´re supposed to be able to hover your hands over the keys a few centimeters or so, and yet, I had trouble making sure I struck the right “keys.”

One very cool feature: The keyboard can be changed to act as a multi-touch trackpad. With a single key-combination (that you´ll likely never hit on accident) the keyboard stops taking in key commands and the entire space acts as a touchpad. Users can scroll and point their way around the screen on almost any surface. The Magic Cube doesn´t work well on glass, it seems, as the lasers have a tendency to want to shine right through.

Every year, somewhere in the middle of iPhone rumor season, there´s a popular rendered image which surfaces, suggesting the next Apple smartphone will finally ship with a projection keyboard. While this tech certainly looks like the future, it´s hard to think of these kinds of keyboards as anything other than a nice little pipe dream.

Though the Celluon Magic Cube certainly works well enough to eek through a modest demo, there´s no way anyone could do any serious typing with such a device.

But perhaps that´s what CES is all about: The hopes and dreams of a brighter future, rather than a celebration of the present.